The Egyptian magician has been a revelation since joining the Boss on loan from Misr Lel Makkasa in his homeland in January. The 26-year-old schemer was instrumental in helping the Garden City side claim the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup double.
The winger scored seven goals in just 11 AGL appearances and provided nine assists – second only to clubmate and Sweden striker Marcus Berg’s 10 – as the Boss stormed to the title for the first time in three years and a first President’s Cup crown in four.
Al Ain’s move to make El Shahat’s switch a permanent one was a no brainer and he will now be one of the main men tasked with filling the void left by UAE icon Omar Abdulrahman who left Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on a free transfer this month, returning to boyhood club Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia after refusing to sign a new contract with the AGL champions.
Al Ain meet Arabian Gulf Cup winners and AGL runners-up Al Wahda at the 30 June Stadium this weekend, and El Shahat is delighted to be playing in front of his home fans.
“I said it before, I have never felt away from home in the UAE,” said the attacker.
“I am delighted with the decision to have the Super Cup played in my country; it is further proof that the relationship between the UAE and Egypt is strong. Every Emirati feels Egypt is their second home and we Egyptians feel at home in the UAE too.
“I expect massive support from the fans in Egypt, not just for me as an Egyptian player, but also for Al Ain. Our fans are always ready and behind us, inside and outside the country.”
Saturday marks the second time in the last three seasons that the UAE football season’s curtain-raising encounter will be played outside the Emirates.
The 2016 showpiece between Al Ahli (now Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club) and Al Jazira was also played in Cairo while last year’s match was due to be played there, only for fixture congestion to see Wahda’s 2-0 victory over Abu Dhabi rivals Jazira played at Bani Yas Stadium instead.
El Shahat says his side are fully prepared to face rivals Wahda, insisting that he and his teammates are focused on meeting expectations ahead of the new season, one that will surely be made more challenging in the wake of Amoory’s departure.
Despite this, El Shahat believes expectations will be ever higher.
“We start on Saturday against Al Wahda, and I pray to God that we can come away from Cairo with the trophy,” said the Egyptian international.
“I respect Al Wahda’s ambition and I realise they are one of the biggest teams in the country, and I also respect their huge fan base. But we are determined to win the Super Cup and start this season with an achievement that drives us forward to continue achieving our objectives.”
Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Clarets, meanwhile, stand between the Boss and silverware. And after pushing Zoran Mamic’s men for much of last season before ultimately falling away in the final months of the AGL campaign, they will be determined to hoist the Super Cup as they look to the loftier goal of winning the league title for the first time since 2009/10.
One man who will be equally as crucial to their ambitions as El Shahat is to Al Ain’s is veteran Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue – who was named the AGL’s Best Foreign Player for a second time last term.
The 33-year-old striker is heading into his sixth season with the Clarets and is relishing the challenge of taking on Wahda’s rivals in a fixture known locally as Al Clasico.
And Tagliabue is in defiant mood as he pointed to the Clarets’ record of winning each of their last four cup finals across all competitions – they are reigning Super Cup champions and also won the 2017 President’s Cup and 2015/16 AG Cup in addition to the 2017/18 trophy.
“The Super Cup is a new challenge for us,” said Tagliabue.
“We know it will be a different and difficult type of challenge for both teams, but we will do our best.
“I hope we can win the game in the 90 minutes and bring the title home for our fans. It will be an exciting game and I hope as many Al Wahda fans are present to support us. We are always used to having the fans behind us everywhere.”
Al Ain’s next generation are ready to pick up the mantle left behind by mentor Omar Abdulrahman – beginning with Saturday’s Arabian Gulf Super Cup against bitter rivals Al Wahda.
This is the message from Rayan Yaslam. From 2017/18’s drive to a club-first double of the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup, the 23-year-old emerged as Amoory’s heir apparent for club and country.
With the 2016 AFC Player of the Year set to spend this season at Saudi Arabia giants Al Hilal, it is up to the likes of Yaslam to take up their idol’s creative responsibilities.
“Omar is a huge technical advantage for any team, he can make the difference on his own,” said the Boss youth product, whose tally of four goals and four assists in the top flight last term represents career-best figures.
“We will surely miss him on and off the pitch, but Al Ain are capable of achieving our ambitions.
“We would like to thank Omar for everything he gave the club and for supporting all youngsters during his time here, and wish him all the best in his new adventure in Saudi Arabia.”
Al Ain and AGL runners-up Wahda’s scrap for glory is set to resumed at Cairo’s 30 June Stadium this weekend.
Veteran UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem should be able to take part after he belatedly agreed a one-year contract extension.
Salem 33, saw his deal lapse after the end of 2017/18. But he was registered as a Boss player with the UAE Football Association on Tuesday.
The Clarets pushed Abu Dhabi rivals Al Ain hard last term, eventually finishing seven-points adrift in second place. They’ve been circumspect in the subsequent transfer market, gaining real quality through prolific Al Ahli Jeddah winger Leonardo and a promising talent in Al Nasr left-back Hussain Abbas.
Allied with iconic forward Ismail Matar’s one-season renewal – the 35-year-old first joined in 2007 – and the return of UAE centre-back Hamdan Al Kamali from a serious knee injury, Reghecampf is expecting an improvement from a strong debut campaign which featured triumphs in the Arabian Gulf Cup and Arabian Gulf Super Cup.
“It is with pleasure that we managed to contract with Leonardo and Hussain Abbas,” said the ex-Romania midfielder. “We wish them success and a quick harmony with the rest of the team.
“The selection of players is a sound decision technically because the contracts make the squad complete and now we have a stronger team than the previous season.
“It was with great pleasure that we renewed the contract of Ismail Matar for an additional season, plus there is also the return of Hamdan Al Kamali from injury.
“We wish provide a season full of successes and continue to achieve trophies. The technical staff and the players will all work as one family, whether we win or lose.”
Great anticipation, in particular, surrounds Leonardo. The Brazilian struck 11 times in 23 run-outs in Saudi Arabia last season, with this following 27 strikes in 41 matches for Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade.
Wahda will defend their Super Cup-crown against Al Ain on Saturday at Cairo’s 30 June Stadium.
Meanwhile, Al Wasl received a boost on Monday when star forward Fabio De Lima began rehabilitation in Dubai after successful surgery.
De Lima, 24, damaged a knee during the early weeks of pre-season training and had been recuperating in his native Brazil.
The Cheetahs begin their 2018/19 AGL campaign against Dibba Al Fujairah on August 30.